Strike action works! Leeds UCU forces concessions from Vice-Chancellor

The following is the text of the lead article of issue 2 of Leeds Socialist Party’s strike bulletin at the University of Leeds.

Action works! Despite requesting the Vice-Chancellor of University of Leeds, Simone Buitendijk meet them when putting in the two week notice for beginning their all out strike on 15th June, it took almost a week into that action for senior management at the University to concede to a half hour meeting.

Yet the pressure of the action is working, within a few days a further meeting was arranged making concessions on the 100% deductions from the pay of those taking part in the marking and assessment boycott, which will limit these deductions to 21 days pay.

This offer was accepted at a meeting of UCU members on Monday with around 70% support of the meeting.

Fundamentally, the marking and assessment boycott is the form of national action that UCU are undertaking at present in support of the ongoing Four Fights dispute. Therefore we understand that an offer that allows this to continue by limiting the financial hardship UCU members undertaking it, will be welcomed by many UCU members. Some universities where a lower deduction is in place may end up losing more money if those are not capped.
Whilst the marking boycott is ongoing, then staff whose work remit does not include such marking can contribute to the funds for those members who are facing the deductions, thus helping to sustain the action.

Nationally, around 160,000 students are said to being affected by the marking and assessment boycott, with some universities saying they will graduate students without giving them their degree classification, such is their determination to ride out the impact of the marking and assessment boycott.

However, whilst understanding why many UCU members would want to accept the offer, Socialist Party members including those in Leeds UCU have reservations about the offer. This includes that accepting the offer can imply acceptance that any future marking and assessment boycott would be subject to a similar 100% pay deductions, as well as whether it would have been possible to sustain the action to force further concessions.

We think that more time than 45 minutes should have been allowed at the members meeting to discuss the full implications of acceptance.

But now that decision has been made, its crucial that UCU members continued to link up with Unison members (and Unite if succesfully re-balloted) and support picket lines and rallies that take place until the dispute is settled.
Whilst the number of universities where Vice-Chancellors have signed joint letters to UCEA calling for re-opening of negotiations over pay keep rising by the week, Simone Buitendijk is not one of them.

Indeed, on the picket lines she has been repeatedly described as totally out of touch, even compared to previous vice-chancellors UCU and Unison have had disputes with over the last decade.

It is clear that if the Vice-Chancellor continues to refuse to meaningfully engage with the trade unions and support a decent pay rise for staff to resolve this dispute, then like Royal Mail chief Simon Thompson, they must go!
Give the disruption students have faced, and the welcome sign that they see that management are responsible for this, such a a campaign would get decent support!

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